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Imation Tape Drive Emulator on Tap

It's a tape cartridge. No, a disk drive. With Imation's Ulysses "disk-enhanced" removal media cartridge, it's easy to be fooled.

The Oakdale, Minn.-based company said it's the first to integrate a hard disk drive into a standard LTO Ultrium tape cartridge form factor for use in a tape library.

The Imation Ulysses serial ATA 2.5-inch drive fits in any standard tape bay and is recognized by the host, backup software and storage management software as a standard tape drive, the company said.

The first release is planned for early next year.

"It's a significant product because in today's economy with applications running 24x7 backing up solely by tape isn't enough; we need something quicker," Dianne McAdam, analyst with Data Mobility Group, told internetnews.com.

"The Imation product isn't blazingly fast but because it's a drive you can access files randomly, you don't have to spin all the way back to the end of a tape to find what you need like you often do with tape."

Pricing details are slated to be released later this year. Imation did say it plans to deliver "the performance of disk at almost the same cost as tape." Analyst McAdam noted it's hard to compare directly to tape cartridge prices as a whole as they can vary significantly between brand names and more generic offerings.

"This is not a replacement technology, but its compatibility with tape environments is a key benefit," said McAdam. "There are a lot of other ways to speed up storage, but they involve changing the backup process, and people don't want to touch what already works."

Backups can be written to a Ulysses drive then migrated using third-party software to high-capacity tape later for disaster recovery or long-term retention

"We believe the Ulysses solution enhances the performance of tape by allowing businesses to realize the high-speed performance benefits of disk without experiencing the high costs of forklift disk-to-disk upgrades," said James Ellis, general manager of global product strategy at Imation in a statement.

"Because it can easily be integrated into current tape library systems, the Ulysses solution provides users with a less expensive alternative."